Skip to main content
Press Release

Justice Department Files Complaint Against the State of Texas for Illegally Placing Floating Buoy Barrier in the Rio Grande

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

The Justice Department today filed a civil complaint against the State of Texas because the state has built a floating barrier, consisting of buoys strung together, in the Rio Grande River without the federal authorization that is legally required under the Rivers and Harbors Act.  The complaint seeks to enjoin the building of the barrier and to require the state to remove it.

“We allege that Texas has flouted federal law by installing a barrier in the Rio Grande without obtaining the required federal authorization,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta.  “This floating barrier poses threats to navigation and public safety and presents humanitarian concerns.  Additionally, the presence of the floating barrier has prompted diplomatic protests by Mexico and risks damaging U.S. foreign policy.”

“The Rivers and Harbors Act is clear in prohibiting the placement of any unauthorized barriers or obstructions in the Rio Grande and other navigable waters of the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We intend to seek the appropriate legal remedies, including the removal of such obstructions in the Rio Grande.”

“The Rio Grande is a significant stretch of the southern border of our country,” said U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza of the Western District of Texas. “We must all recognize that there are laws and policies in place – both domestic and international – to ensure the safety and security of everyone working, living and traveling along the river. These laws cannot be ignored, and my office will take and support the appropriate legal action to uphold them.”

The complaint alleges that, beginning earlier this month, Texas directed the placement of a floating barrier – buoys four to six feet in diameter strung together – in the Rio Grande, approximately two miles south of the Camino Real International Bridge in Eagle Pass, Texas. Governor Abbott has said the state may build more barriers as part of a broader effort called “Operation Lone Star,” which also includes placing concertina wire near the U.S.-Mexico border.

The complaint is lodged in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Texas.

The case is being litigated by the Environmental Defense Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Updated April 3, 2024

Press Release Number: 23-798